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How to Choose a College When You Can't Leave the House


Coronavirus has upended the typical college search process for prospective students. Even schools that didn't transition to remote learning may be restricting access to campus.

With campus visits and in-person college fairs off the table, colleges and universities have been expanding their efforts to connect with students online via social media, email and more. There's a silver lining to the pandemic — your soon-to-be college student has even more ways to learn about and engage with a school they’re interested in.

Here are six ways for your student to connect with universities online to help them make the best choice in their college search.

1. Follow The School on YouTube

Video is one of the most effective ways for universities to tell their stories online to engage with current students and attract new students. YouTube is where most of these videos live — not to mention that it’s the second most popular search platform after Google.

Your student can easily find a school’s YouTube channel with a quick search on the platform. On a school’s YouTube channel, your student can check out sample online lectures, admissions resources, showcases of student life and more.

A good tip is to head to the Playlists section and browse for the kinds of videos that interest your student. UCLA has an easy-to-browse playlists page on YouTube, with videos sorted into categories including UCLA Arts, COVID-19 Care Packages and UCLA Student Life. 

2. Like Them on Facebook & Instagram

Facebook and Instagram are the social platforms used most frequently by universities looking to connect with students.

When your student follows a school's page on either of these platforms, they can watch videos, find links to stories about life on campus, receive invites to online events, and read reviews from other students who’ve attended the school.

Your student might also find a Facebook Group they can join to connect with both current and other prospective students. For example, Iowa State University has Facebook Groups for the graduating class of each year, their admissions office, international students and more.


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CYCLONES CARE Practice healthy behaviors, because who has time to be sick? @kristin.scott @iowastatewbb @cycloneath

A post shared by Iowa State University (@iowastateu) on

3. Find Hashtags to Explore Campus Culture

Hashtags are an easy way to take a deep dive into what it’s like to be a student at a certain school. College social media profiles will often include hashtag campaigns to encourage students to post their own content.

For example, the University of New Hampshire’s #UNHTales allows students to post their own stories about life on the UNH campus.

The easiest way to take advantage of hashtags is to simply search for a hashtag with the name of the school your student is interested in. For example, on Instagram, a search for #CuBoulder yields over 100,000 posts, many of them sharing the lives of students and professors at the University of Colorado Boulder.

4. Try A Virtual Tour

One of the most exciting new technologies transforming how your student can experience a campus is that of the virtual tour.

A virtual tour comes in the form of an interactive online video made with 360 degree cameras. Your student can choose where to explore across campus, and in some cases be guided by a student tour operator who will provide details about what your student is seeing (as in Yale’s virtual tour).

This is an especially powerful tool in the COVID-19 era when on-campus visits and travel are difficult or nonexistent. Even without a pandemic, traveling all over the country to visit schools is time-consuming and can be prohibitively expensive.

Virtual tours make universities more accessible to all students, and are an excellent way for your student to experience a school from a distance.

5. Subscribe to Emails

If your student has already connected with a university during the college search process, it’s likely they’ve been added to an email list. Encourage your student to open those emails and spend time with them.

These emails might include stories about the school’s successes (from the football field to the research lab), videos celebrating campus culture, and more. The content is intended to speak directly to your student’s concerns and questions about the school so they can continue to assess whether the school might be a good fit.

For example, take Ohio State University’s College of Arts and Sciences email newsletter. In the April 2020 installment, the Dean shared an impassioned letter with students in the wake of COVID-related campus closures. The email also included tips for mental and physical self-care, transitioning to remote learning, updates on the summer and fall terms, career resources and much more.

The best thing about OSU’s Arts and Sciences newsletter is that you don’t even have to subscribe to view them. They make the entire archive available on their website.

A simple way for your student to find similar newsletters for their school of choice is to go online and search for “x university email newsletter.”

6. Visit the Website

Out of all the ways to learn more about a school online, a university’s official website is probably the best.

A school may have only seriously started developing their YouTube channel or Instagram profile in the last few years. But their website is likely much more established, with in-depth information on different areas of study, campus life, blogs and other resources for your student to explore.

Plus, the school’s website will typically include links to its social media accounts, YouTube and other places where your student can engage with the university, making it a great place to start on your student’s college search journey.

How to Choose the Right College During Coronavirus

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, schools have quickly ramped up their efforts to make it easier than ever for prospective students to learn more about their options from the safety of home.

Read more!
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